Bullying and Harassment

Bullying and Harassment

Last updated 23.3.2021


At Tesco, everyone is welcome and we want to ensure all colleagues are respected and included. It’s important that colleagues feel safe and confident to be themselves at work and develop their skills, as part of a great team.

We are committed to providing a working environment free from bullying and harassment. Any form of bullying and harassment can have a devastating effect upon colleagues’ health, confidence, and morale and ultimately how we serve our customers.

We do not tolerate acts of bullying and harassment. We take any such complaints seriously and will investigate all allegations made. Any colleague found to have breached this policy will be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure, which could lead to disciplinary action being taken up to and including dismissal.

Our approach and practices are underpinned by our inclusive culture and the Equality Act 2010 (the “Equality Act”) which provides that acts of harassment, sexual harassment and victimisation are unlawful.

This policy is reviewed annually to ensure it appropriately reflects any changes to the law, culture or society.

1. Who is this policy for?

This policy covers bullying and harassment which occurs at work and out of the workplace, such as on business trips or at work-related events, social functions and on social media. It also covers bullying and harassment which occurs outside of a work situation where the incident is relevant to a colleague’s suitability to carry out their role.

This policy covers all prospective and current colleagues, contractors, temporary and agency workers and anyone else working directly for Tesco on a permanent or temporary basis.

This policy doesn’t form part of employment contracts and may be amended or withdrawn at any time.

We will share this policy with suppliers, consultants, contractors and our agency providers. We expect our suppliers, consultants, visitors and any other agents working on behalf of Tesco to take acts of bullying and harassment seriously and comply with their legal obligations in this area.

2. What do we mean by bullying?

Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour which may involve the misuse of power and could make someone feel; vulnerable, undermined, threatened, humiliated or upset. Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. Some examples of bullying include:

  • conduct which is, or is perceived to be, intimidating or threatening or where someone aims to hurt or injure you
  • shouting at or humiliating someone
  • picking on someone or conduct that attacks someone’s character or reputation
  • ridiculing or consistently undermining someone
  • looks or gestures or excluding someone from group activities, this could also involve the inadvertent or deliberate exclusion of a colleagues’ partner (heterosexual or non-heterosexual) from events where partners are invited
  • Acts of cyberbullying, including; sending malicious e-mails or texts or using social media to spread rumours or inappropriate messages
  • Abuse of power or position, including; preventing a colleague from progressing through the business by blocking promotion or training opportunities for no good reason.

The above are just examples and not an exhaustive list.

Legitimate, reasonable and constructive criticism of a colleague’s performance or behaviour at work will not amount to bullying on its own.

3. What do we mean by harassment?

Harassment is unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose OR effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. A single incident can amount to harassment and if the actions could reasonably be considered to have caused offence then the harasser is in the wrong, even if that was not the intended purpose of the harasser. A person doesn’t need to have previously objected to something for it to be considered unwanted.

There are three types of unlawful harassment:

  • Bullying and Harassment


- Disability

- Gender reassignment


-Religion or belief


-Sexual orientation

-Sexual harassment

  • Less favourable treatment of a worker because they submit to, or reject, sexual harassment or harassment related to sex or gender reassignment.

It is Tesco’s view that this policy extends to protect our trans colleagues (inclusive of our non-binary and gender fluid colleagues) from harassment, whether they have gone through gender reassignment or not.

Everyone’s different and something that doesn’t offend one person might offend someone else and vice versa. Just because something doesn’t or wouldn’t offend one person doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate behaviour. If you’re in any doubt about whether something is appropriate or not, don’t do it. Examples of behaviour that could amount to unwanted conduct include:

  • using insulting or abusive gestures/language
  • physical behaviour towards a person or their property
  • insulting or ridiculing someone, this could look like someone name calling or asking intrusive questions associated to a colleague being bi or refusing to address a colleague who is trans with their correct pronouns
  • making jokes or inappropriate remarks about someone
  • banter and mimicry
  • displaying or circulating offensive material (e.g. sexist or racist material), including images and graffiti
  • sending abusive or offensive e-mails or texts
  • posting abusive comments on social media sites

The above are just examples and not an exhaustive list.

4. What do we mean by sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment occurs when someone is subjected to unwanted conduct that is of a sexual nature. The conduct does not need to be sexually motivated to amount to sexual harassment, for example if a colleague edited a pornographic image to include the face of a female colleague and circulated it to other colleagues that would be sexual harassment as the use of the image is sexual in nature even though there was no sexual motivation.

Examples of conduct of a sexual nature includes behaviour such as:

  • Sexual comments or jokes
  • Displaying sexually graphic pictures, posters or photos
  • Suggestive looks, staring or leering
  • Propositions and sexual advances
  • Making promises in return for sexual favours
  • Sexual gestures
  • Intrusive questions about a person’s private or sex life or a person discussing their own sex life
  • Sexual posts or contact on social media
  • Spreading sexual rumours about a colleague
  • Sending sexually explicit emails or text messages
  • Unwelcome touching, hugging, massaging or kissing
  • Basing decisions affecting a colleague’s career on their acceptance or rejection of sexual advances

The above are just examples and are not an exhaustive list. Someone stating their sexuality and relationship status will not constitute sexual harassment alone, for example a colleague stating to another colleague that they are gay and that they have a husband would not constitute sexual harassment

5. What should a colleague do if they believe that they have been harassed?

a. By another colleague or manager

There are many ways of speaking up if a colleague is concerned they are being bullied or harassed. In certain, less serious, circumstances they may feel comfortable to resolve the issues informally as people may not always be aware of the impact their actions are having on that person. If the colleague wishes to handle the complaint informally they can describe to the other colleague how their behaviour has made them feel. Alternatively, they can also speak to their manager, another colleague or union rep to approach the person(s) on their behalf. However, if the colleague’s concern involves their manager it may be appropriate that they speak to somebody else, such as another manager or a People Partner.

If the matter is too serious to be resolved informally, or the colleague remains unhappy with their situation at work they can raise the matter formally through the grievance process. A colleague would typically raise the grievance to their manager, however if they are the subject of the grievance the colleague can raise this to another manager or member of the people team. Anyone involved in any stage of a grievance procedure must treat all matters discussed with the strictest confidence, subject to any legal obligations or rights such as a requirement to report to a regulator.

Any allegations of bullying or harassment will be thoroughly investigated in line with our Grievance and Disciplinary policies. Anyone found to be breaching this policy may be subject to disciplinary action which could lead to their dismissal. Aggravating factors such as abuse of power of a senior colleague over a more junior colleague will be taken into consideration in deciding what disciplinary action to take.

If a colleague has any concerns for their safety they should speak to their manager as soon as possible, if they feel they can.

Where a colleague can’t talk to their line manager (or another trusted manager), People Partner or Legal team, they can always contact Protector Line, a confidential telephone and online service run by an independent third party on 0800 374 199.

b. By a third party such as a contractor, supplier or agency colleague

We do not tolerate any form of harassment including acts of harassment by a third party towards a Tesco colleague. In circumstances where a colleague believes they have been harassed by a third party such as a contractor, supplier or agency colleague and they wish to handle the complaint informally they can do so following the advice in the previous section.

If the matter can’t be resolved informally or if the colleague considers the matter to be too serious to raise informally then they can raise the matter with their manager and they will raise this through the appropriate channels, for example to the agency themselves for them to investigate and follow their own disciplinary processes.

c. By a customer

In circumstances where a colleague believes they have been harassed by a customer they should raise this as normal to their manager or another available manager and we will take all necessary steps to bring this to the attention of the customer and warn them about their behaviour. In addition to bringing this to their attention in some circumstances we may also bar them from visiting our premises and where a criminal act is thought to have been committed, we will report them to the police.

d. A third party person with a work relationship to Tesco who believes they have been harassed by a Tesco colleague

The third party person should raise this with their manager who should bring this to the attention of Tesco, where their manager is also not a Tesco colleague, or they could raise this directly to a Tesco manager. If the third party person believes that their concern could be resolved informally then they should indicate this to the Tesco manager who will support them to do this.

Any allegations of bullying or harassment we receive from third parties about Tesco colleagues will be thoroughly investigated in line with our Disciplinary policies. Any Tesco colleague found to be breaching this policy may be subject to disciplinary action which could lead to their dismissal.

6. Will colleagues be protected from victimisation?

Victimisation, in the context of harassment, is where a colleague is treated badly because they have:

  • Made an allegation about harassment
  • Supported someone who has made an allegation
  • Given evidence or information about an allegation
  • Intended to make an allegation or support someone who is making an allegation
  • Intended to give evidence about an allegation

Acts of victimisation are unacceptable at Tesco. If someone raises a harassment complaint, we will take all reasonable steps to ensure that they are not victimised.

Any allegations of victimisation will be thoroughly investigated in line with our Grievance and Disciplinary policies. Anyone found to be breaching this policy may be subject to disciplinary action which could lead to their dismissal.

7. What will happen if a complaint is raised in good faith that is then not upheld?

We encourage colleagues to raise complaints in good faith therefore, if a complaint is not upheld but they raised it in good faith, believing that it was true, then they will not face any disciplinary action. The colleague will only face disciplinary action if it is found that in addition to being false it was raised in bad faith (in that they knew or had reason to know that it was false).

8. Can someone withdraw a complaint they have made?

If someone raises a complaint to us and later wishes to withdraw their complaint, or they ask that we don’t take any action, we will, where possible, respect their wishes. In these circumstances we will still take steps to ensure that the matter is resolved, for example we may:

  • Keep a record of the complaint and the request to keep it confidential, for example on a ‘Let’s Talk’ form
  • Encourage people to resolve the issue informally, providing them with information and support on how they might do this
  • Keep the situation under review, including checking in with them to determine if the situation had improved

In circumstances where the situation has not improved for the person who has raised the complaint or where we are unable to ignore the allegations that they have made because of their seriousness, it may be necessary for us to start or continue with the investigation, in contradiction to their wishes, in order to ensure that we uphold our responsibility to provide a safe working environment and our legal obligations. If we need to continue or start an investigation against their wishes, we will let them know, and we will take all reasonable steps to ensure they do not face victimisation as a result. Acts of victimisation are unacceptable at Tesco.

9. What should someone do if they see someone being harassed?

It is the responsibility of those covered by this policy to take all reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of harassment, therefore if they see someone being harassed they should raise this with an appropriate manager.

Managers must take action on complaints of harassment that are raised to them or that they see, they should start by discussing the incident with the colleague to understand if they wish to raise a complaint, if a colleague does not wish to raise a complaint refer to section 8 for advice.

10. Is there any other support available?

Employee Assistance Programme: a positive, preventative programme that includes information, advice, training and services to help colleagues deal with events and issues in their everyday work and personal life. Available 24 hours, 365 days a year.

Grocery Aid: a charity for those who work in the grocery industry with a confidential 24/7 helpline.

- www.groceryaid.org.uk

- 08088 021 122 (phone number)

Samaritans: a volunteer-led service with a free, confidential 24/7 helpline.

- 116 123 (phone number)

- www.samaritans.org

NHS Direct: a service staffed by a team of fully trained advisers, supported by experienced nurses and paramedics. To be used if someone urgently needs medical help or advice but it's not a life-threatening situation.

-111 (phone number)

- http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/Emergencyandurgentcareservices/Pages/NHS-111.aspx

Citizens Advice: free, confidential and impartial advice.

- Online advice: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

- Web chat service: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/contact-us/web-chat-service/

- 03444 111 444

Rights of Women: free employment legal advice for women experiencing sexual harassment at work.

- 020 7490 0152

- https://rightsofwomen.org.uk/get-advice/sexual-harassment-at-work-law/

USDAW: For members of USDAW they can speak to the USDAW representative in their workplace for advice and support or alternatively they can contact USDAW’s central offices.

- 0800 030 80 30

- www.usdaw.org.uk

Stonewall: an organisation that champions LGBTQ+ rights directly by empowering LGBTQ+ people, supporting businesses and through their political activism, at home and abroad.

- Online advice: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/help-and-advice